Identity First Language

Identity-first language places the disability-related word first in a phrase. People who prefer identity-first language for themselves often argue that their disability is an important part of who they are, or that they wouldn’t be the same person without their disability. For some people, identity-first language is about a shared community, culture, and identity. Identity-first language is also about thinking about disability as a type of diversity instead of something to be ashamed of.
Some communities that use identity-first language are the Autistic, Deaf, and Blind communities. Other people might use “disabled person” instead of “person with disabilities.” Specific people might refer to themselves differently than most members of their communities, so it is a good idea to ask a person how they identify if you are writing about them or introducing them.

Identity-First Language | Autism Acceptance Month

The biggest argument in favour of identity-first is language is simply that the majority of autistic people prefer it.

To everyone who tells me not to say “autistic person” – Autistic Not Weird

Here’s a simple breakdown of IFL and how it’s used:

  • “Disability” and “disabled” are indicators of culture and identity. Thus, “disabled person” is an accepted term.
  • Within the Autistic community, IFL is widely preferred and often consciously chosen, because Autism is considered an identity. That is, you’d say “Autistic person” instead of “person with autism.” In this way, being autistic is regarded as a facet of one’s identity – a neurological state of being – and not as a source of shame.
  • A similar line of thinking is followed by many who are Deaf. While some people identify only as little-“d” deaf (referring to a physical state of being), others capitalize the “D” to indicate being Deaf as a culture and identity. So, using the principles of IFL, one would say “d/Deaf person.
  • These same concepts do not apply when it comes to the use of a term strictly for its medical definition. For instance, it is never okay to say something such as “Down syndrome person” or “cerebral palsy person.” Here, you’re referring to a person by diagnosis, which is perceived as dehumanizing.
  • Likewise when it comes to mobility equipment. It’s completely inappropriate to call someone something such as “wheelchair person.” (Sadly, I’ve been called this several times.) Instead, you would say “wheelchair user.”
Person-First Language Doesn’t Always Put the Person First

Identity first: as in disabled person (as opposed to person with a disability) was originally conceived to challenge the medical view of disability and replace it with a socio-cultural view. It wasn’t people’s diagnoses that were the problem, it was society. Society was the main cause of disablement. Saying you were a disabled person was originally not about identity at all it was an acknowledgement that society was the predominant cause of barriers for people with impairments (see my post here for a more in depth breakdown of the social model of disability). It was a way of calling attention to society’s physical and social barriers by tying oppression to the term disablement.

I sincerely doubt that most people who use identity first language are doing so to constantly be saying “hey you are oppressing me” or “hey I’m oppressed” (even though those two statements are likely true). They do it for the same reasons I do. It is a way to reject the idea that disability is a dirty word and to say that disability can be a part of a person’s identity without sacrificing their humanity. It’s a pushback against the stigma associated with disability (for more see this piece by Emily Ladau).

I however, choose to use IFL to directly challenge the bigotry inherent in assuming that I must be separated from my body to be considered human. I most definitely don’t do it to pigeon hole my identity into one label. I am far to complicated for that, just like everyone else.

I continue to believe that people should have the right to self-label and I endeavor to respect people’s personal preferences because we have been labeled by others far to often and it is time for us to take over the conversation about our own lives. I will not however accept the idea that my choice in sentence structure means that I am limiting my identity.

Source: Just Because I Use Identity First Language Doesn’t Mean I Let Disability Define Me | crippledscholar

“Disability” and “disabled” are indicators of culture and identity. Thus, “disabled person” is an accepted term.

Person-First Language Doesn’t Always Put the Person First

Person First Language

“People-first” language is meant to divide, it is meant to demean, it is meant to dehumanize, it is meant to pathologize, and yet, it is meant, as I said before, to make its users feel good. In that way it is ultimately destructive because it covers up the crimes.
Only when people get to choose their own labels will we get anywhere toward building an equitable culture.
If we convert horrid prejudices into pleasant sounding phrases, we diffuse those prejudices as an issue.

Using “Correct Language” And “People First” by Ira David Socol — Bowllan’s Blog

Are you confused about person-first language? Have you been caught in arguments over whether you should say “autistic person” or “person with autism”? Are you confused and wondering how to avoid insulting people by accident?

Let me explain how person-first language started and how it went from etiquette to ableism.

Person-First Language: What It Is, and When Not To Use It » NeuroClastic

Person-First Language is about putting as much distance as possible between the person and “the autism.” It is the opposite of acceptance.

Amy Sequenzia, Non-Speaking Autism Activist

Paradigm Shift

The shift from the pathology paradigm to the neurodiversity paradigm calls for a radical shift in language, because the appropriate language for discussing medical problems is quite different from the appropriate language for discussing diversity.

THROW AWAY THE MASTER’S TOOLS: LIBERATING OURSELVES FROM THE PATHOLOGY PARADIGM

 Identity First Language: Thinking differently requires speaking differently.

Learn more about the history and use of identity first language and person first language in our extensively sourced essay, “Identity First Language: Thinking differently requires speaking differently.

Related reading,

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Published by Ryan Boren

#ActuallyAutistic parent and retired tech worker. Equity literate education, respectfully connected parenting, passion-based learning, indie ed-tech, neurodiversity, social model of disability, design for real life, inclusion, open web, open source. he/they

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